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Congress questions Disney regarding MagicBand / MyMagic+ privacy concerns, marketing toward children

Congress questions Disney regarding MagicBand / MyMagic+ privacy concerns, marketing toward children

A letter from the United States Congress has been sent to Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger requesting answers to a series of questions bringing up privacy concerns surrounding the recent MyMagic+ announcements for Walt Disney World, centering on the MagicBand.

The letter comes from Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, specifically referencing the New York Times article through which Disney first announced the MagicBand.

As part of the MyMagic+ project, Disney intends to have park guests optionally wear wristbands called MagicBands that will give them access, via RFID technology, to a next-generation Fastpass system, touch-to-enter, touch-to-pay, and other interactive enhancements around Walt Disney World’s theme parks and hotels. But none of it will be required. And guests may choose to opt in or out of sharing certain types of information with Disney.

Read Markey’s full letter on the official United States House of Representatives web site.

Many of Markey’s initial questions about the basics of the MagicBand technology and privacy concerns have been asked and answered before, not only within the New York Times article but also here on Inside the Magic and by Disney’s own Frequently Asked Questions pages.

But his later questions are ones Disney has thus far declined to respond to. Markey asks Disney to reveal specifically what information they will collect while guests wear MagicBands and how that information will be used with regards to advertisements and marketing. Moreover, it’s not clear whether that information will be stored in perpetuity or will eventually be deleted. Markey is most concerned with how Disney plans to use the information to market its products and services directly to children, know more about their individual behaviors.

Disney has already noted MagicBands will not store any personal information directly on them, instead connecting to a secure database elsewhere. MagicBands are able to be disconnected from that database if lost or stolen. But Markey’s concern is less about where the data is stored and more about how it’s collected, where and when, on whom, how much, and most importantly, how it will be used.

Markey has given Disney until February 14 to respond to his questions, ones which Disney has not answered when asked by journalists. When I recently posed similar questions regarding whether Disney will “track” guests through the parks, a spokeswoman simply replied, “Not at all.” But Disney’s, or specifically Iger’s, reply to a Congressman may turn out to be a bit more thorough, perhaps revealing to the public Disney’s behind-the-scenes decisions surrounding MyMagic+.

A Disney spokesperson did release a public statement in response to the letter: “MyMagic+ is a completely optional program. Disney’s privacy policies and practices are fully transparent and guests can choose whether or not to participate in MyMagic+. In addition, guests control whether their personal information is used for promotional purposes and no data collected is ever used to market to children. MyMagic+ is designed to make a visit to Walt Disney World more personalized, seamless and customized than ever before.”


Below is the full official press release regarding this letter:

Congressman Asks for Details on Data Collection, Targeting Advertisements to Children at Disney Theme Parks

WASHINGTON (January 24, 2013) – Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) raised questions today about the privacy implications for children visiting Disney theme parks resulting from the company’s plan to offer a new bracelet at its parks that will serve as a payment source, room key, and gateway to other services during visits to some Disney parks. In a letter sent to the Disney corporation Chairman and CEO Robert Iger, Rep. Markey asks the company how it will track, collect information about, and target its guests with advertisements, especially the children and teenagers who frequent the parks. Disney’s plan to roll out a new “MagicBand” system was reported in a New York Times article earlier this month.

“Collecting information about how guests use Disney amusement parks could improve the company’s ability to target advertisements at its guests, including children,” writes Rep. Markey, who is a Co-Chairman of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus. “Although kids should have the chance to meet Mickey Mouse, this memorable meeting should not be manipulated through surreptitious use of a child’s personal information.”

In the letter addressed to Disney’s chairman and CEO, Rep. Markey asks whether guests will be required to use the “MagicBand” system; how data will be collected, stored, and shared; and whether children will be targeted with ads or other marketing pitches. The full letter is available HERE.

In May of 2011, Rep. Markey introduced the Do Not Track Kids Act, legislation that amends the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to extend, enhance and update the provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information and establishes new protections for personal information of children and teens. More information on that legislation is available HERE, and Rep. Markey will re-introduce this legislation in the coming months.


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